Category: Poetry

Appropriator: Employment application OR Lost and Found 

I ate from the table, making sure that my elbows rested,

left hand never rose from my lap,

and that my water glass sip

didn’t crumple the invitation given to me.

It’s all one big chance to win it big,

find your place,

use two euphemisms,

about finding a culture that doesn’t make me feel like an outsider.

See, I’ve never been outside the United States

but I’ve been a guest in more than four states-

examining each spine I come in contact with.

I look at backbones on sale,

placing wagers if I can score one like that,

like hers prepackaged without shipping and handling fees.

You don’t understand,

how misplacement in adulthood

asks the questions: who are you, where are you from,

and will you fit in here?

I look at skin, eye shape, collar bone,

and find myself in a Polly Pocket world

switching between identities, communities, 

and grievance of reparations in hopes I will be invited to eat

at this table again. 

Divinity, makes her laugh

She talks about heaven as if it doesn’t exist.

She sees the world as an expanse,

where our entire beings are smaller than our pupils.

In the burst of stars

 combusting anxieties across the galaxy,

I stop putting factions of what is right or wrong

in people’s mouths. She believes there is a world

a part from humanity that should benefit.

She reminds me that the world is alive

tingling in the veins of leaves,

and on algae gripping onto coral bodies.

She makes heaven sound otherworldly,

Out of place for the bound book –

I forget to open. I forget to search nose down,

As I’ve been taught. I felt religion came in waves, 

I teleported through peace intervals,

and smiled when I saw the earth as not mine.

Instead, I, in origin belong to the ground, the sea, 

the duty of sustaining life other than my own.

She speaks as if heavens don’t matter, 

because indulgence doesn’t matter if the earth is hurting.

She makes heaven sound like another planet,

out there orbiting as a moon.

She makes heaven sound so old,

That the clouds remember the grazes of prayers,

my people already sang when they came crammed in ships.

She makes heaven sound like a body,

washed and wrapped in burial cloth

waiting for the younger generations to come

pay respects. She makes heaven sound fleeting as a

shadow over the grass on summer day. 

Ode to writing

I wrote a thousand different poems.

Each one, pressed like flowers and leaves

in dictionaries, my parents told me to read.

Some days, I think there aren’t enough words

in me. I used to chew on the margins of my

grade school notebooks, so when I talked- a sound

came out in the classroom. I wrote a song for a

girl whose hands are as warm as the steam

against my face, when I’ve opened the pot’s lid.

For this sensation, I remember the places and

people who’ve made me feel warm. My hands

are cold, with my self-deprivation forming

rings around my fingers. I wrote a letter to

people I’ve never met because I would have

liked to know them. Their words seep into the

graveyard’s grass, and shower a mist in a

mausoleum of urns. Somewhere, I learned

that if I think my words are important, I can

never say them directly face to face. I wrote

a paragraph or two for my parents on how

my childhood left me with an unrealistic

perspective that my younger self was the

only self I could be proud of. I wrote a

lullaby for my aches and groans, when I

held my arms tightly across my chest in the

night. Silent decays of belief and hope are

mine to keep. I wrote a song for a man I

knew who would never love me, and now

I think of how I don’t want him to. I wrote a

song for sex, afraid that when it happens, I

won’t like it at all. I wrote a song for rain, add-

ing an extra refrain for the days it never stops.

I wrote a limerick for myself, because the day

laughing gives way to sickness of a tearful mind –

I’ll read it again.

 

Body

I miss my body

Her collarbones her thighs her heart on sleeve

I took her apart,

And tried to tinker with parts of myself

I was insecure about

I felt as if no one could see me

The happier I would be.

I miss my body’s drape under cloth

Pouch of fat pinch of bone

Stretched under my skirt

When I saw my knees.

I miss my body’s sex appeal

How it uncoiled in my fingers 

As I played with the springs of my hair.

I miss my body’s sigh when I flirted with street walk 

And doused perfume over the tops of my breasts

In case I lean nearer to his breath.

I miss my body’s backbone 

Open to the sky

When I felt the grass touch my skin

I miss my body’s peek of tummy 

When her hands lazily brushed over it

Tugging at embroidered seam.

I miss my body’s warm shoulder

Kissed by the sun

Painting gold onto my collarbones

And forehead.

I miss my body

As if I no longer own it 

Under these clothes.

Forgive me.

Dry hands crack but they still can hold another’s hands

My dear –
How can you not see
The parts of yourself you’re rushing
To fix and laboriously contain
Into wells, bathtubs, and buckets.
This is only the beginning
Where water glides over hands, arms,
And feet – the act of ritual cleansing.
One more time,
The ocean laps against the sand,
And then the tide recedes again.

Do you not see –
We’ll do this many times
Kneel when we’re tired of asking
Kneel when we’re frustrated with not being quite what we had hoped to be
But the sea, the ocean, and the rivers
Come again
Even when water around us depletes.
I ask you for tonight, tomorrow, and transcending periods of time
Whether I am able to become clean.
My fingers are raw from the washboard.
They are dry from my hands never leaving the water.
But I try
I try forcing the tears
Sunken in my sorrows, out.
My dear –
Don’t you see,
Prayer paddles in water,
And sometimes swims for miles in seas, oceans, and canals

– Yet we are here
Day by day
Looking for a place where our thirst is quenched by nothing more than a single invocation of His name.

Because wishing makes the room feel crowded

In another life,
Transcending past glazed sunsets,
And frosted night skies,
I hope I remember what now feels like.

I hope I never forget
The creases of my mouth,
And the casual hand hiding a smile
Nor the placement of my hands
Out of sight
and neatly in my lap.

In another life,
I hope it’s beauty that I remember
When looking for the faces of people in the past.
This beauty which cradles faces to weather the storm,
And this beauty where compassion overflows.

I hope time buries itself in the ground,
And all who walk here years later –
Know that this feeling of contentment existed.
Trial by default,
I harvest my doubts
And reap them alongside the fresh seeds of my future.
I plant these tiny memories in places,
Where I hope to come back
And live them once more.

In another life,
I hope that what happens here
Blooms under rocks
Bursts bombastically out of tree trunks
And says that my compassion is built
On nothing less than hope.

A thumbtack on a map

We are exploring. We are here after the clouds departed to reveal sunrise. We are sunken head deep into REM, because pinkish blurs wisping across the sky mean nothing now. We are into lying on our sides – recalling the ambient sound of an oscillating fan. We are exploring internal hardship as it sighs into the afternoons and sighs again into the evenings.

Today, I stared at the grooves of my cellphone case – wondering if I should call you. I thought just maybe this time I would have something to say. Outside of the scrapbook wavy cutouts, I still saw us frozen in time. Although, I knew we had changed – I feared my changez wouldn’t be ready for you to see. Today, I curled up and counted my blessings in order not to feel sad. Today, I recited this list as if my worries would learn how to evaporate.

If I’m ready, I would like to know where ambition goes when sadness intensifies. If I’m ready, then maybe tomorrow is worth starting over at 3pm on a Monday. If I’m ready, let the first step be not falling into a place where I’m not good enough.

We are. We are. We are trying to be okay. Okay with where we are right now, and not dismayed we’re not where we had hoped to be. We are. We are. We are here.